Soldiers spot car accident from the air, land helicopter to aid injured man in Bavaria
By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 18, 2020
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Five 101st Airborne Division soldiers flying over rural Germany were in the right place at just the right time to help a local man.
The four-person crew and flight surgeon were returning from a training flight to their base Wednesday when crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook spotted trouble on the ground, out of the corner of his eye.
“We were coming over a ridge line and I was looking outside, where I noticed a puff of white smoke,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “I looked further and I saw a car roll three times.”
The crash happened in Fabrikschleichach, a Bavarian town about an hour’s drive away from Illesheim, where the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers are based during their nine-month rotation with the Atlantic Resolve mission, a U.S. effort to deter Russian aggression in Europe.
“I just called it up and the decision-making started happening from there as a crew,” Cook said.
After getting clearance from their mission commander to break away, the Chinook piloted by Chief Warrant Officers Two David Acton and Robert Riedel circled back to help.
Cook served as a runner between the helicopter and brigade surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork, who ran to assess the German driver.
“We landed in a muddy farm field and I ran across that, then across a ditch, then a road,” Stork said. “Saw a vehicle, one or two civilians standing around it, and then the injured German man on the ground beside the vehicle.”
Fortunately, the man spoke “pretty good English,” Stork said, “because my German is broken.” Stork evaluated him, making sure that he could move his arms and legs, and was aware of his surroundings.
“He was in pretty good shape (considering what happened),” Stork said. “He had some bruises, scrapes, a little bit of bleeding and back pain but overall, he was doing quite well.”
Shortly after Stork stabilized the driver’s neck and back, an ambulance arrived, the Army said in a statement. He gave a report to the paramedics and helped load the man into the vehicle, it said.
“As we were getting him on the spine board, the victim got his phone and called his family,” Stork said. He was speaking German, but “he mentioned U.S. Army on the phone … I think it was a pretty good impression we made.”
Army Spc. Bruce Cook, a CH-47F Chinook crew chief, stands in front of a helicopter at Storck Barracks in Illesheim, Germany, Dec. 16, 2020. Cook was was the one that initially witnessed a car accident from the air while flying back to Illesheim from a routine training mission. The Chinook landed in a field to provide medical assistance to the accident victim.
GARRETT L. DIPUMA/U.S. ARMY NATIONAL GUARD